Math Alum Honored with PECASE Award

Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2012
Suzanne Shontz

Suzanne Shontz, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics at Mississippi State University, (and formerly of computer science and engineering at The Pennsylvania State University), is among 96 researchers nationwide, and 20 researchers National Science Foundation (NSF) nominees for the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.  The recipient was presented with her award at
a White House ceremony held in July 2012,

“Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people.” President Barack Obama said. “The impressive accomplishments of today’s awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead.”

Shontz received her award for research in computational and data-enabled science and engineering.  "I design computational techniques used to solve problems in science and engineering involving motion.  These computer methods are used to approximate the shape of an object as it changes over time due to its motion," Shontz said.  "Scientists and engineers are able to use these algorithms for studying numerous applications including design of new cars, flapping of an airplane wing, and placement of a medical device, for example.  It's a great honor to receive this award. It means that my research at Penn State has been recognized by the White House as being important to the nation."

The Presidential early career awards embody the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges and contribute to the American economy. The recipients are employed or funded by the following departments and agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Veteran Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation, which join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions.

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

Shontz received her doctorate in applied mathematics from Cornell University in 2005. She received bachelor's degrees in mathematics and chemistry from the University of Northern Iowa in 1999 and master's degrees in computer science and applied mathematics from Cornell University in 2002. Before joining Mississippi State in August 2012, she was an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, and a Minnesota Supercomputing Institute Research Scholar at the University of Minnesota.

In addition to the current NSF honor, Shontz received a National Physical Science Consortium Fellowship from 1999-2004 and an Honorable Mention for the Alice T. Schafer Prize for Women in Mathematics in 1999. In 2007, she was selected as the Computer Engineering Faculty Marshall for the Spring Commencement exercises at Penn State. In 2009, she received an Office of Naval Research Summer Faculty Fellowship.

This article is an updated version of Suzanne Shontz’s PECASE announcement.